Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
Master’s Degree in Modern, Post-Colonial and Comparative Literatures
Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna
110/110 cum laude
Bachelor’s Degree in Languages, Literatures and Intercultural Studies
Università degli Studi di Firenze
110/110 cum laude
Even though unfinished creative works have surfaced throughout the ages in virtually every artistic field and all over the world, contemporary America provides a particularly fertile breeding ground for the study of the “Literary Unfinished” (Stewart 2016). Since the mid-1980s at least, American writers have increasingly dealt with incompleteness in art as part of their novels. Despite the fact that this trend has continued to “run underground” to this day, however, the recurrence of the “Unfinished” in so many recent works seems to have largely gone unnoticed.
Whereas no specific study exists about the current situation of “unfinished fiction” in the United States, scholars have dealt with similar themes by focusing on different genres and contexts. The research and debates have so far fallen into two major categories: a general one, reflecting on the overall characteristics shared by unfinished creative works from different times, places, and means of artistic expression; a more specific category, investigating the forms assumed by the “Unfinished” at a particular time and place, through the use of a certain technique, or in a specific work of art. In both cases, these studies have fallen short of the relevance this particular topic seems to have in present-day America.
As opposed to merely “incomplete” works of art – not completed because of accidental factors such as the author’s death – only a work that is left intentionally, purposely in such defective form would fit the category of the “Unfinished” (Rajan 1985). My first aim is to find out whether novels intentionally left without ending still constitute a relevant part of today's fiction. What I mean to suggest is that in contemporary America the unfinished novel has not at all disappeared: it has survived by changing in nature and scope, in accordance with other recent transformations undergone by American literature, culture, and society. In particular, this genre seems pretty much alive when it comes to the large number of recent novels that include fictitious incomplete works of art within the novel itself: some notable examples include works by Philip Roth, Paul Auster, and Michael Chabon, among others.
In conclusion, my research project also intends to stress once again that literary works – not unlike music, films, and the fine arts – can be potentially “complete” and “perfect” in their “unfinished” and “imperfect” shape, thus also aiming at the revaluation of a “flawed” artistic form about which there is still much left unsaid.